Monday, October 11, 2010




Childhood’s never over.

It goes on evolving along with us

as if maturing had nothing to do

with growing up.

It’s what’s still creative about yesterday

that lives on inside us

like an ongoing work of art

whose finishing stroke of genius

was never to abandon it.

My childhood has the eyes of a homeless boy.

The eldest son of a single welfare mother

how could I not become a hero

to be worthy of her

who gave her life up for me?

Even the worthless can make noble mistakes

and if I started out tilting at windmills

the ironic absurdity

of my many-headed imagination

has long since turned me into

some kind of dragon voodoo doll

that keeps taking hits from the past

like a junkie trying to curse someone

by sticking pins in himself

as if his blood had eyes.

Who knows the fate

of the fatherless son

who’s been martyred

on the heartless altars

of maternal compassion?

I was middle-aged by the time I was seven years old.

I’m sure my mother never meant to raise this.

But there you go.

Things get out of control sometimes

like morning glory vines in a cedar hedge

after a forest fire.

Some people are the point of the sword.

Some are the edge.

Some grab the blade by the hilt

and then there are all those who bleed.

I played Russian roulette with the moon

to clarify my intensities

with Zen bullets

I held to my head like koans

that kept bouncing off my platinum skull

or went clean through

without touching any of my vital organs.

There’s a subtle ambiguity

about enlightenment

that makes it hard to distinguish

a great bodhisattva from a contract killer.

I’ve been watching myself for years now

like a C.I.A. drone

learning all my routines

and personal habits

waiting for the right moment

to make the perfect hit.

I can remember when I thought I was Zorro.

A Spitfire pilot over London in the autumn of 1940.

Born a recipient white-washed by gratitude

like a white picket fence

with a couple of palings missing

for everything from the shoes on my feet 

to my next breath

I wanted to make a contribution

that was a liberating payback with interest

for all that we’d received

as a welfare family

living like economic gypsies

on the fringes of better things to come.

The slave wanted to buy his freedom

from the infernal kindness

of his economic masters

indulging themselves in charity

to live forgivably

with God’s obscene abundance.

If great oak trees from little acorns grow

and you can get Neils Bohr

out of a single atom

and there was even hope for me

way back then

when I was a switchblade

winning book awards

that alienated me strangely enough

not only from those who gave them out

like well-cut jewels

to a diamond in the rough 

but baffled my more bituminous friends

into keeping their distance

as if intelligence

were an untouchable

in a criminal caste system.

I didn’t want to be someone

my mother had wasted her life for.

So much of what I am.

So much of what I’ve done.

So much of what I’ve not done.

Not much of a son

when I look at it through her eyes

and even less of an outcome

when I look at it through mine.

Things were supposed to come to fruition.

But they’ve proven to be all vine.

In my grailquest for redemption

I’ve followed the dark star of my intuition

like black wine

that delighted in leading me astray.

The rational disassociation of the sensibility

as Rimbaud used to say.

Method in your madness.

But that was yesterday

before the center did not hold

and things fell apart

as Yeats said they would.

Not that it does a lot of cosmic good

to know these things.

It’s hard to console a pteradactyl

by telling it why

the dinosaurs disappeared.

Everybody goes

with the evolutionary flow of their lifestreams

running downhill

to the big landfill

of their schemes and dreams

coming to a standstill

like the genes and memes

of a homesick Neanderthal.

They knew how to flintknap the moon

but they never learned

how to spin their delusions

like I did

in blood red ochre

on the wombwalls of a limestone cave

deep underground in southwest France.

It’s not so hard to be a hero

when there’s nothing to lose

and you don’t stand a chance.

Think about it.

We’re all given minds to express ourselves

and most of humanity

only says what it really means

when no one is listening

like Iago behind Othello’s back.

What kind of a play is that?

The actors keep their mouths shut.

The theme’s a re-run.

And the heroes

are all vicious petty

snakeoil salesmen

milking both fangs at once

like the crescents of the moon

to heal the last first

of all they have wounded

like a drug addict

in the realm of the Fisher King.

I may be as dark

as an oxymoronic anti-hero

blinded on the road to Damascus

by an improvised explosive device

that was wired like two snakes coupling

in the name of an unknown goat god

but at least I mean what I mean.

I don’t say the kingdom’s green

when it’s black.

I’m not a latter day Teresias.

The fix isn’t in on the prophecy.

I don’t look at two copulating snakes

and see a double helix.

I live in eclipse

like one of the real heretics.

I am the estranged genius

of my own genome

wholly at home

in my homelessness.

I have learned how to mutate.

To shape-shift my form

like an old Etruscan god

of zodiacal kings

where the river turns towards Rome

like the bloodline of a mad emperor into the arts.

I’m not trying to sell my story to the stars.

I don’t believe in lullabies that leave scars. 

I don’t think there’s anything in the way of wealth

that’s worth asking for

that’s worth more

than the strength to stop asking

and the wisdom to ignore your own power

like an annoying habit

you’re trying to transcend

to be a bigger man

than the one you thought you were.

I wanted to be the kind of son

that turned all those floors

all those windows and tables

my mother had to scrub

for rich women in Lansdowne

into glass slippers

that fit her

like a shoe-shine Cinderella

with a prince of a reflection

for an eldest son.

I started out well enough that way.

But look what happened.

Someone once told me

the earth was a sphere

and so it is

if you’re rich enough

but if you keep falling off the edge of it

you know you’re poor.

You look at it

like an old starmap

that never goes out of date

like the full moon

of an empty dinner plate.

You know it’s flat.

And hope’s not much of a parachute

when it flowers

as if wishes were horses

and beggars could ride

because that’s the way

it insists with coercive intensity

things ought to be

and all in one voice

we all agree

to the same inane absurdity.

All the intellectuals

are trying to divine

the direction

of our mutual devolution 

like an apocalyptic watershed

right under their feet 

by reading the biography

of a best-selling mutant

they’re dying to meet

in a debate about creation

and misinformation

as the basis of reality.

And I may have been stubbed out

like a cigarette

or a big toe in a bad dream

on the stone of the earth

whenever I laid my head down

to forget who I was

more than a lifetime or two

because I was a slow learner

with a Mongolian tolerance for pain

but I’ve never blown a personal crisis

up into an astronomical catastrophe

that makes everything I think

the cosmic life

of a self-concious dinosaur

that went extinct upon impact.

I’ve never done that

though that doesn’t make me

much of a hero

in the eyes of my undoing.

A hero needs to act spontaneously

on the facts of the situation

through four consecutive acts

of tragic superstition

playing to the crowd.

I’ve got the scars

to say I’ve done my time

standing up in the arena

armed with nothing

but long odds against the Christians

but I’ve never learned how to scream

like a sestina

the way it says you’re supposed to

in all the rhyming dictionaries

that teach you to write

like a social form of etiquette

about things that made you fight for your life

like a lion-god with claws

the size of lunar crescents

that knows how to part your heart

as if the waters of the Red Sea

were nothing but a minor flesh wound

compared to how

you can be opened you up like Egypt

the moment you drop your guard.

Thieves in the pyramid!

Thieves in the pyramid!

Stealing my body of thought

like the tools to build

a better afterlife

than I was dreaming of

like the only way out of here.

Let’s hope there’s someone waiting

on the other side of the wall

between that freedom

and this prison 

with a car

and new clothes

and a snakey mistress

that looks up

and smiles like a gun moll

then hisses and moves

like an anaconda

in black pantyhose

listening to rhythm and blues

on a police radio.

It may not be a cure for cancer.

But it’s my last answer

to those who ask me what

I’m doing here

checking my spiritual rear-view mirror

every few minutes of my getaway

like a return journey

I’m not going to make

back to Heartbreak Hill

like Sisyphus

on tour with the Rolling Stones

in the town where I grew up

watching my mother

try to make it through every month

as if she were trying to swim

the Straits of Juan de Fuca

like Marilyn Bell.

Hell is a seven year old boy

sitting at a kitchen table

like a broken toy

late into the night

listening to his exhausted mother

get the sorrow rage and despair

out of her system

like the venom of another day

by making two little Xs with a razorblade

and bleeding it out loud

as if you crossed your heart

and hoped to die

because even death was better

than living the way we did.

I’ve thrown a lot of snakes

without heads

in the fire ever since.

I’ve bruised them with my heel.

I was inspired by the views

of a Promethean thief

to introduce fire to the snakepit

that reached out to bite my mother

every day of her life

she couldn’t feel anything

but harm at the door of her heart

and dangerous shadows

under the windows into her soul. 

Though sometimes

when the world had shut down for the night

I could see through the tears she tried to hold back

beautiful rainbow serpents

still swirling

like the Northern Lights

on the oilslick that overwhelmed her.

Even on her hands and knees

scrubbing the filth

off other people’s floors

she found a way to dance

the way she did before

the swan died on the lake

and she was hobbled by four kids

and a seven to five chance against

getting the next month’s rent.

She could have let go.

But she didn’t.

She hung on to her children

like a fatal mistake

she was deep enough to make

for love’s sake

in the middle of welfare hell

where night after night

staring at greasy walls

and torn linoleum

childhood never ends.

You just sit at the table forever

trying to pick the brighter bits

of  broken chandeliers

out of the ice-storms

of your frozen tears.

And there’s so much you want to do

but you can’t

because you’re not God

and you’re not the genie in the lamp

you’re just a child

terrified of hope

thinking to yourself

some people cling to life

like a strong rope up to heaven

and others are barely hanging on by the thread

of the sword

dangling over their heads

like the brutal truth

of a debt to society

that’s always in arrears.

Looking back over the years

it gets easier to see

that if nature abhors a vacuum

then it doesn’t miss me

or the futile childhood clarity

of a social pariah

sitting at the table

like one of the four elements

my mother gave birth to

listening to the sound of humans

snapping like wishbones

that never came true.







































These huge vast thoughts of you

prove nothing

except they’re too hard to carry.

They’re the same old Sisyphian stones

I’ve been rolling uphill

ever since you left me

standing on quicksand

like a half-finished pyramid

that just lost its reason for dying.

And I’m way past crying.

I’m dark water locked in the heart

of a distant planet

that doesn’t support life.

I look up at the nightsky now

remembering you as you were then

and I’m always one house shy of a zodiac.


At the end.

There’s a space

where that last sign of you

used to be

and a galactic black hole

that keeps sucking me in

like a bird into a jet engine

to try and see in the dark

if there’s a way out of here

I haven’t tried before.

I’ve followed my footprints

like scars in the deserts of Mars.

Using my penis for a compass

I’ve been an undercover boyscout

looking for signs of life on Venus.

Now there are too many event horizons between us

too many bent dimensions

too many worlds

too many millions of lightyears away

too many swords and bells

too many full moons

crossed out on the calendar

like Xs on boarded up plague doors

for longing to bridge the gaps

in the unimaginable vastness of space

by jumping from one constellation to the next

like an ancient collection of starmaps

looking for one that shines

as you once did

when things that were hidden

deep in the heart of the night

were revealed

without resorting to signs.

I’ve never stopped missing you

though it would be good advice

in sensible shoes

if I could.

And it’s not out of respect for the dead

that the wound never heals

that parted us like the Red Sea

but more the way love feels

when it’s leaving Egypt

for a promised land

it’s not allowed to enter.

Which one of us was the cause?

Which one of us was the effect?

How could anyone answer that

when I remember looking at you

through the doorway into your studio

reworking your canvas

over and over again

late into the night

and I used to think

as you mixed your colours like instincts

even our flaws are perfect

when our eyes are a work of love.